The Rhinelander High School girls' tennis team held serve Tuesday as it looks to preserve its Great Northern Conference lead in the final week of the regular season.
The Hodags took all seven matches in straight sets and defeated Pacelli 7-0 at Goerke Park in Stevens Point.
The win kept Rhinelander 10 points ahead of second-place Antigo in the GNC race. The Red Robins have now played an equal number of conference matches as the Hodags, after beating Phillips and Lakeland by matching 7-0 scores Monday and Tuesday.
"We knew we had to play well at all positions to maintain our lead in the conference and it turned out to be true with Antigo beating Lakeland 7-0," coach Bob Heideman said. "We didn't necessarily play well at all positions but well enough to win."
The Hodags raced through the first three singles matches with relative ease. Annika Johnson beat Pacelli's Amanda Lansing 6-1, 6-1 in the top flight, Kenedy Van Zile was a 6-0, 6-3 winner over Amelia Jacoby in the second flight and Kaylee Pontell topped Allison Lange 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3.
"Kaylee Pontell got us off to a good start with her win, followed by Kenedy Van Zile and Annika Johnson," Heideman noted. "Kenedy expects a lot out of herself and even in wins is disappointed in her play. It was good to see Annika get back to form after Antigo."
Kat Metropulos bounced back from a three-set loss against Antigo to complete the singles sweep for Rhinelander with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Pacelli's Julia Storch. Because there are only six courts at Goerke Park, Metropulos' match was both the last to take the court and the last to finish.
"She played tentatively but took advantage of Storch's weaknesses to win," Heideman noted.
The closest call of the day came at No. 1 doubles where the team of Jackie Wells and Alex Oestreich won the first set 6-3 and were up 4-1 in the second when the Pacelli pair of Ella Schroeder and Marissa Stolt made a run to get back on serve at 5-5. Wells and Oestreich responded to win the last two games of the second set and take the match.
"The doubles took longer. Pacelli could win points but had trouble getting enough of them together to win games," Heideman said. "Jackie and Alex turned what looked like a routine win into a close set, after losing a 4-1 lead in the second set. At 5-5 they put together two solid games to close the set and match. They have done a good job of staying positive through their droughts."
Lisa White and Kathryn Borski were 6-1, 6-1 winners for Rhinelander over Jenna Stolt and Maya Kunze at No. 2 doubles. Jaiden Thiel and Izzy Haverkampf took the third flight 6-2, 6-1 over Briar Armatowski and Jayden Hytry.
The win moved Rhinelander to 5-0 in conference duals and 33-2 in individual conference matches. With two points at stake in each individual conference match, the Hodags are in position to clinch sole possession of first place in the GNC standings heading into the conference meet Sept. 26 in Rhinelander, depending on how they fare in their next two conference matches.
Seeking its ninth GNC title in 10 years, Rhinelander hosts Lakeland and Wausau Newman back-to-back today and tomorrow at the RHS tennis courts and needs to win those matches by a combined score of 10-4 or better to be guaranteed first place in the conference standings entering the GNC meet.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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